The BJP’s improved performance in Gujarat’s Muslim-dominated constituencies this time is being seen as a possible sign of the minority community warming up to chief minister Narendra Modi. Some observers even linked it to the saffron leader’s efforts at reconciliation through the Sadbhavna Yatra that he launched ahead of the elections. A closer scrutiny of the results suggests that may not be true, however. Equally misplaced is the inference that people voted for Mr Modi because they see in him a leader who delivers on governance and development.
While it is true that the BJP won as many as seven of the 19 seats that are considered to have a decisive Muslim presence and had mostly been with the Congress in the past, there is no evidence to believe the Muslims have swung for Mr Modi. A more appropriate explanation would be that they didn’t vote for the Congress as aggressively as they had done in the past. And that was because in at least four seats, including the better known constituencies of Bapunagar and Jamalpur in Ahmedabad, Congress lost because of internal squabbling and rebel candidates. In the other three, the BJP had strong candidates who could rally the support of all non-Muslim communities.
Similarly, the losses in the countryside would suggest what Mr Modi’s critics have been saying for some time — that he ignored the development concerns of the poorer sections, especially in rural and tribal areas, even as he is often projected as a leader who expedited economic progress for Gujarat. The results show how delimitation made a big difference in favour of Mr Modi, in neutralising the effect of rural voting. The number of seats in the five top cities of Gujarat increased from 26 in the last election to 40 this time. And the tally of Congress in these cities rose from four to five, while that of BJP from 22 to 35. In other words, if there was no delimitation Modi would have ended with a score of just about 100 and the verdict would have been interpreted differently.